Colombia ranks in global top 20 for airline capacity

Juan David Piraquive/Airliners.Net

The number of airline passengers traveling to Colombia betweeen January and February this year more than doubled the numbers over the same period in 2021, up 184% when 715.115 travelers entered the country through domestic airports.

According to Colombia’s Civil Aviation Authority, the 2.03 million passengers who entered and left the country, now ranks the country among the top 20 worldwide for airline capacity, given that the country’s airports offer 1,147 weekly international routes to 42 destinations in 26 countries. In terms of seat occupancy, Colombia, this year, also set a new record with 196,343 compared to all of last year’s 190.583.

During the week-long Easter holiday, 25,000 non-resident tourists are expected to visit the country.

With seats filled to capacity and carriers announcing new direct routes from Colombia’s regional hubs to Caribbean destinations, Avianca, Latam and Viva, lead the pack when it comes to passengers moved.

As Colombians look toward to Caribbean for leisure and all-inclusive vacations, low-cost Wingo inaugurated on March 31 a service between Medellín and Santo Domingo, and only airline to deliver this route. Rival low-cost Viva Air also launched a DR flight connecting Colombia’s second-largest city, Medellín, with the popular beach resort Punta Cana. Avianca also connects Bogotá and Punta Cana with two daily flights.

With many options available for travelers heading to south Florida (Miami, Fort Lauderdale and Orlando), Colombians account for the second highest numbers of visitors to Mexico, after US citizens. The surge in Colombia-Mexico travel has given Mexican carriers Interjet and Volaris a strong foothold in this country with flights connecting Cancun and Mexico City with Bogotá and Medellín.

Fierce competition for seats among established low-cost carriers saw the entry in March of up-start Ultra Air. During its first month of operations the airline transported 50,000 passengers and has forced rivals, including Avianca and Latam, to lower ticket fares on busy domestic routes up to 13%.

As the country’s travel sector rebounds fully from the pandemic, Colombia has managed to entice foreigners with fair entry requirements that apply to citizens from all nations, and easy to meet for the fully vaccinated. For the unvaccinated, or partially vaccinated, in-bound travelers must provide proof of a negative PCR test issued 72 hours pre-boarding.

If the sky is the limit, as the saying goes, Colombia is on the radar of global carriers, including a planned Dubai-Bogotá flight with Emirates, a Doha-Barcelona-Bogotá flight with Qatar Airways, and arrival in July of Spain’s budget long-haul carrier Plus Ultra with a Madrid-Cartagena-Bogotá flight. European flagships that serve the Colombian capital from their respective hubs – KLM, Lufthansa, Air France, Iberia – have resumed their pre-pandemic itineraries.

Turkish Airlines replaced its A330 on the Istanbul-Bogotá-Panama route with a non stop Dreamliner Boeing 787 flight. Last month Avianca also resumed its  direct Bogotá – London Heathrow service, also with a Dreamliner, and last international destination suspended in September 2020 with the UK’s hotel quarantine rules and COVID-19 red list.

Regional carriers are also important players in the Colombian market, with Chile low-cost Sky operating between Santiago and Bogotá, as well as planned Lima-Bogotá flight this summer. And Colombia’s Viva Air was recently approved by Argentina’s Civil Aviation Administration to operate a daily flight to Buenos Aires from both Bogotá and Medellín. Currently the Argentine capital is served by Aerolineas Argentinas and Avianca.